There are 2 versions of the B minor prelude from WTC 2, BWV 893 on IMSLP:

A. 'London version' which is in cut time.

B. 'Altnickol version' which is in 4/4, the note values diminutized proportionally, and the bar lines extended to 4 beats. There also includes some differences in ornamentation.

Which is the more correct version to play, and more commonly played?

1 Answer 1


Johann Christoph Altnickol (1720-1759) copied the second book of The Well-Tempered Clavier in 1744. A 2014 paper by Yo Tomita of Queen's University Belfast comes to the conclusion that this was Bach's preferred version. From the abstract:

One of Altnickol’s earliest copies, and arguably the most important, is the second book of The Well-Tempered Clavier ... Presently Bach scholarship accepts that this fair copy is one of the primary sources of the celebrated work ... This paper examines a broad range of evidence ... to suggest that it was Bach himself who asked Altnickol to prepare this fair copy, that it remained in Bach’s possession after Altnickol had left Leipzig in 1748, and that it was indeed Bach’s most important reference copy.

The change in notation makes no difference to the way the piece would be played except for the ornamentation which would be subject to change by the player in any case.

  • 1
    Thanks. Is there really no difference in sound to 2 bars of double beat vs 1 bar of quadruple beat?
    – Pearl
    Mar 3 at 12:20
  • 2
    @Pearl Somebody will turn up here and claim there would be a difference, but I would challenge anybody to listen to a series of different recordings of the piece and correctly identify the edition each of them were using (ignoring any ornamentation differences).
    – PiedPiper
    Mar 3 at 16:13
  • 4
    @Pearl I feel like the meter change would matter more in some styles and less in others, and an argument that it matters not at all for solo baroque keyboard works is completely reasonable. An argument that it matters a lot more for a conducted concert band piece would also be reasonable, IMHO. Mar 3 at 16:39

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